Bonhams at the Goodwood Festival of Speed: George Daniels collection under the hammer
They belonged to the extraordinary watchmaker George Daniels and, in total, are expected to sell for more than £8 million.
Before talking about the cars themselves, however, it’s worth a few words on the collector who owned them until his death in October, aged 85 – because the fact that George Daniels CBE chose to own these particular vehicles adds greatly to their appeal. Daniels was no ordinary man. A watchmaker extraordinaire, he was able to conceive, design and hand-make a complete watch from a blank sheet of paper to the finished, ticking timepiece. The only watchmaker ever to receive the honour of 'Master Watchmaker, for services to Horology', Daniels is best-known for creating the co-axial escapement – described as “the most important horological development for 250 years”. This achievement is a testament to his engineering skills – which also account for his love of fine motor cars.
As to the cars themselves, Bonhams claims the ‘jewel in the crown’ to be the ex-Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin 1929-32 Bentley 4½-Litre Supercharged Single-Seater (pictured top of page) which set the Brooklands Outer Circuit Lap Record at more than 137mph in 1931. Daniels himself once wrote about this car: “For all its inconvenience, it is a most exhilarating car to drive both on the road and track.” As a fan of Bentley Boy ‘Tim’ Birkin, Daniels also owned the 1932 Alfa Romeo 8C-2300 Long Chassis Touring Spider (pictured above), a 1932 Le Mans Team Car, which Birkin shared with Earl Howe in the race. When its competition career was over, the Alfa (which has a supercharged straight-8 twin-overhead camshaft engine) was re-bodied in period by Pinin Farina, and owned by the Mussolini regime's Air Force Minister, Marshal Italo Balbo, who is said to have delivered political speeches while sitting on its bonnet. “It doesn't have the thundering majesty of the Bentley at speed nor the sweet burbling exhaust note when idling, but one has to concede that when introduced in 1930 its technical specification was much in advance of the Bentley,” said Daniels of this car.
Other cars in the collection include the 1908 Itala 100hp Grand Prix Car (below), winner of the 1910 Brooklands All-comers Plate, and the ex-Frank Taylor (of Taylor Woodrow Construction) 1954 Bentley R-Type 4.5-Litre Continental Fastback (above right).